For Joe and Patricia Applewhite, it seemed one moment they were unloading groceries and the next, everything they owned was consumed by fire.
The couple had been to Wal-Mart in Decatur Saturday afternoon and had returned to their home in the 1400 block of Heritage Creek Drive near New Fairview around 4:30. Joe had backed his pickup up to the front door of the house in order to unload groceries.
“I noticed the grass was burning under the truck,” he said. “I got a water hose and put it out. My wife fell around the back of the truck. I went to help get her up, and the truck went up in flames.”
Patricia said they had just filled up one of the tanks with gas during their grocery trip.
Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said the grass fire may have started from the truck’s catalytic converter. Because of the truck’s close proximity to the house, the single-story, wood frame home quickly went up in flames as well.
By the time fire departments from East Wise, Rhome and Decatur arrived on the scene, they were faced with battling a vehicle, house and grass fire as the flames had spread to a field behind the rural home, burning five to seven acres. Medics were also dispatched to the location, but the Applewhites were not injured.
The 480-square-foot home was a total loss, and the Applewhites lost nearly all of their possessions. Red Cross was called to the location to provide assistance and secured a hotel room in Decatur through today for the couple.
The couple had been renting the home for the past six years, and they said they had renter’s insurance. The home was also insured. Travis estimated the total loss, including the pickup, possessions and the structure, to be $47,500.